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Mayor calls for new bypass in response to Bath’s ‘clean air zone’ proposal

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A PROPOSAL to introduce charges for a ‘clean air zone’ in Bath could help build a stronger case for a new Melksham bypass to the east of the town around Beanacre.

The suggestion by Melksham’s mayor, cllr Adrienne Westbrook, to push for a new bypass, comes in response to fears that if implemented, the ‘charging clear air zone’ could encourage north/south traffic that does not meet minimum emission standards to use the A350 instead to avoid Bath, increasing traffic and pollution in Melksham. 

Speaking to Melksham News, cllr Westbrook said, “It is concerning, as this could throw more traffic in our direction. The proposal needs to look beyond the city of Bath – anything that affects the roads in Bath will affect the surrounding areas.

“However, if this goes ahead, could we use it to put more pressure on Wiltshire Council to put more pressure on the Department of Transport to get funding for a new bypass? I know that a Melksham bypass is still high on Wiltshire Council’s agenda, so it would be an idea to get something out of this if it went ahead.”

Bath & North East Somerset Council (BNES) has proposed the introduction of a daily charge from the end of 2020 for driving through the centre of Bath to help meet their target from the Government to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air by 2021. 

Charges would apply to vehicles that do not meet the Government’s minimum emission standards – £9 a day for cars, taxis and LGVs/vans and £100 a day for buses, coaches and HGVs.

Local MP, Michelle Donelan said, “I have been contacted by a number of residents concerned about the impact the proposed changes will have on residents in Melksham and the surrounding villages. 

“Whilst it is right that Bath and North East Somerset Council are seeking to improve air quality for residents, I will work closely with them to ensure that Melksham residents’ views and concerns are heard and addressed. I am working together with a number of local Wiltshire councillors on this issue and if you would like to share your own views on the proposals, please contact me on michelle.donelan. mp@parliament .uk.”

Bath RUH patients

Concern has also been raised for the impact on patients of Bath’s Royal United Hospital from Melksham. Patients using the A4 London Road or A36 to access the city, face a charge of £9 if their vehicle does not meet the minimum emission standards.

“It is a major concern that people might not be able to use the quickest route through Bath to get to the hospital,” said cllr Westbrook. 

“But this could give us more reason for Wiltshire to push for better emergency facilities in  the area. Getting to the RUH is a nightmare, especially during peak-hour traffic. A baby could be born in the time it takes you to get there!”

Speaking on behalf of the RUH, deputy chief executive, Libby Walters said, “The Trust is aware of the council’s plans for a clean air zone. We will follow the consultation process closely to fully understand the potential effect the proposals would have on the ability of our patients and our staff to travel to our hospitals. We will discuss these issues with the council over the coming months.”

The BNES consultation on a ‘charging clean air zone’ for Bath ends on Monday 26th November. Visit: www. bathnes.gov.uk/bath-breathes-2021-overview

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